Dame May Whitty

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Mrs. Miniver Review


Excellent
For some reason, I've resisted seeing the acclaimed Mrs. Miniver all my life (probably due to the dull title) -- but finally I caught a showing on Turner Classic Movies and I was duly impressed. Now out on DVD, there's no excuse for anyone to miss seeing Miniver for themselves.

The titular missus is just a moderatly wealthy English lady in 1939 who's trying to keep her family together on the eve of World War II. Her son enlists in the RAF, her husband serves in the river patrol. The Germans drop bombs and, eventually, a Nazi soldier lands in the Miniver backyard. In happier times the son woos and marries the local beauty. A flower show is held. Oddly, all of this is compelling and makes perfect sense -- and it all looks gorgeous thanks to some lush black & white photography, excellent set designs, and impressive war effects.

Continue reading: Mrs. Miniver Review

Gaslight Review


Weak
It would be mean to say that Ingrid Bergman played confused all too well, but it would nevertheless be true. Director George Cukor (My Fair Lady) likely didn't have to look too far when he was casting about for his female lead in this 1944 adaptation of Patrick Hamilton's old warhorse of a play, as he needed somebody with an imperious grace and a trusting demeanor that could easily be read as a lack of intelligence. Bergman fits the bill perfectly, playing Paula Alquist, a traumatized young British woman whose family sent her away from her London home after her aunt (an internationally famous singer whom she was living with) was found murdered. Years later, after a long stay convalescing in Italy, where she takes singing lessons in a desultory fashion, trying to emulate her dead aunt, Paula falls in love with the piano player, Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), whom she marries after a whirlwind romance.

The seed of an idea that something is not quite right gets planted during their honeymoon, when Gregory convinces Paula - even though she's obviously still traumatized by her aunt's horrible murder - that they should move into the old London house together; he's just a little too insistent about it, in a way that would set any sane person's alarm off. But Paula goes blithely along, and they return to the house. It isn't long before Gregory is chipping away at Paula's self-confidence, convincing her that she's forgetful ("But, dear, I already told you, don't you remember?") and insinuating in a not-too-subtle manner that she's going crazy. At the same time, he's always finding excuses for them not to leave the house, Paula keeps hearing noises and wonders why the gaslight keeps inexplicably getting turned down low. All you need are hints of the dead aunt's jewelry and the longing way that Gregory stares at the Crown Jewels in a rare trip out of the house to the Tower of London, to figure out that there's a financial reward at the end of his chicanery.

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Suspicion Review


Excellent
Hitchcock's Suspicion is vintage a Hitch mystery, a whodunnit that's more did-he-do-it than anything else.

Cary Grant is his dashing usual self in this outing, a handsome devil who's just a bit too smarmy for his own good. He's got a history of womanizing, gambling, and dodgy business deals, but he nonetheless catches the eye of the mildly mousy but very wealthy Joan Fontaine, who immediately swoons for him. Almost immediately, they marry, and Fontaine promptly starts to suspect ulterior motives -- namely that Cary's going to kill her and/or good friend "Beaky" (the inimitable Nigel Bruce) for insurance money or other financial gain.

Continue reading: Suspicion Review

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